- Bubble tea supplies are running low amid a shortage caused by backed-up US ports.
- Tapioca pearls, popping bobas, and flavored powders and syrups are stuck in transit.
- The products are the latest among many that have faced a shortage during the pandemic.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Your favorite bubble tea shop may not be serving its signature drink for a while as shipping delays are keeping some retailers from getting the supplies to make the sweet beverage.
The shortage started about a month ago, according to Oliver Yoon, the vice president of sales and global marketing for Boba Direct, a Chicago-based nationwide supplier of bubble tea products.
US ports on the East and West Coasts have been overwhelmed for months as consumer spending has increased along with a bevy of logistical issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boats, carrying tens of thousands of shipping containers, are waiting outside ports.
“It’s a perfect storm really,” Yoon said.
Bubble tea, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, is a Taiwanese milk tea drink with a variety of flavors that features chewy pearls of tapioca. Supply has been tightened for the last month, Yoon said, and it’s not likely to let up until the end of April at the earliest.
Bubble tea products like tapioca pearls, popping bobas, flavored powders and syrups, and disposables, are all stuck in a “huge bottleneck,” said Yoon.
But it’s not just bubble tea. “It’s pretty much any kind of consumer product,” Yoon said.
Starbucks franchises, for example, aren’t able to fulfill customer orders of the new oat milk drink offerings and baristas are even reporting shortages of cups and syrups. Fitness gear, roller skates, and furniture, among other products also have been hampered.
One bubble tea shop owner named Alex Ou told The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the shortage, that some consumers won’t buy a drink if there’s no boba. “They’re literally here for the boba,” he told the publication.
But consumers just need to be patient, said Yoon. “This is temporary, not forever.”
For retailers selling bubble tea, they’re frustrated, too, said Yoon.
“I get it; they’re a small business, and they’re trying to survive. We’re all in the same situation – just trying to survive,” he said. “COVID really affected the situation with importing. No one anticipated what happened last year; it’s one of these domino effects later on in the future.”
Have you tried to order a food or drink item but were told it was sold out for the time being? Email the reporter of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.